A wine cellar represents a significant investment in advance of another significant investment—a fine wine collection.
This document was created as a guide of the most important aspects to consider when building a custom wine cellar. The objective of this guide is to supplement your knowledge of wine cellars, equip you with the right questions for potential buildersand give you a notion as to whether the answers you are receiving are legitimate.
Table of Contents
Become acquainted with the general principles of proper wine storage
Our guide Wine Cellaring: General Principles will provide you with a foundational basic understanding of how to properly store wine. Knowing the general principles of wine storage will allow you to determine whether a prospective builder meets the minimum standard.
Research the builder or contractor
There is an unfortunate misconception among millworkers, architects, contractors, and carpenters that a wine cellar is simply a fancy “closet for wine” with a straightforward design and construction. The vital fact that is often overlooked is that wine is a living entity, which is to say its structure can be volatile and susceptible to damage from numerous sources. The potential for error is surprisingly high. Genuwine Cellars was born from a love of wine, founded by two alumni of the International Sommelier Guild. We know wine—how it ages, how it is best stored, what can damage it, and what makes it valuable. Before you commit to any builder, be sure to ask if they have experience building wine cellars. Be wary of the “it’s not rocket science” attitude because although it clearly is not, it is a building project rife with potential for errors and serious consequences, including a damaged wine collection.
Get a feel for the builder’s wine cellar design acumen
Anyone can build a room to store wine, but inexperience can negatively impact your cellar, often in ways that you may have never even considered. Bottle capacity, case storage, and large format storage are items that should be discussed. Proposed wine racking should be able to accommodate different bottle sizes (including oversized), and your cellar should be able to accommodate your collecting habits as they evolve. We know that the habits of a collector tend to change over time, and just because you are not buying by the case now does not mean you will not be in five years. If the builder is asking you rudimentary questions, such as “what is the average bottle height and width?” you should be wary. This question and others like it are ones that we have long since asked and perfected the answers to, based on over 25 years of experience.
Ask questions about materials and build quality
Contractor A may offer a better price than Millworker B, but are you receiving a fair “apples-to-apples” comparison? The quality of wine cellar racking materials (and the professional level of their builds) can vary dramatically, even across specialty wine cellar fabricators. Keep in mind that while certain materials and finishes may be appealing, not all are suitable for a climate-controlled environment. Genuwine Cellars offers custom stain matching to secure the aesthetic you desire, while still using wine cellar materials.
Consider the door
The door is often the most overlooked component of a wine cellar, even though it usually represents the weakest point. Under proper cellar conditions, a regular interior door will warp and bend. Genuwine Cellars has developed our own series of wine cellar doors, designed for the sole purpose of withstanding cellar conditions and maintaining a sealed environment. With respect to glass wall and door systems, consider that glass industry-standards for tolerances (i.e. gaps between glass panes) are not acceptable, nor suitable for the purposes of wine storage. Reducing these gaps is vital to creating a sealed-environment, and illustrates a significant escalation in terms of complexity.
Consider the mechanical
Conventional home and commercial climate-control involves a different set of technologies from wine cellar cooling units. While both share basic elements, the differences are what your HVAC professional needs to be aware of. Like anything, there is value in expertise and experience. You should strive to work with a climate-control company that has a history of installing mechanical into wine cellars successfully.
Do they offer a warranty?
An obvious question, but one that may be overlooked—what if the wine racking and millwork is installed but ends up off-gassing in the cellar? Who is going to uninstall and replace this? Genuwine Cellars offers a limited lifetime warranty on all wine racking and millwork. Ultimately, the unique nature of wine cellar construction makes it possible to receive a stunningly beautiful cellar on Day 1, but may be faulty and not so pleasing on day 3 when the cooling unit has frozen over and caused water damage. We strongly encourage you to perform your due diligence and consider our recommendations to avoid this kind of scenario.
Overall, your wine cellar should be a masterpiece, constructed with fine materials and master craftsmanship. Like fine wine, it should stand the test of time and delight you for years to come. Choosing the right builder is critical, we hope this guide aids you in making the right choice for your collection.